As Qantas and Virgin Australia join the growing list of airlines adopting spacious next-gen business class seats, a senior Cathay Pacific executive says that service or 'soft product' is becoming the key area where airlines can stride ahead ahead of their competitors.
"Soft product is increasingly a differentiator" suggests Cathay Pacific Director of Corporate Development James Barrington.
"Yes, you've got to have the 'hard product' to be competitive, that's the table stakes" Barrington tells Australian Business Traveller at an event to mark the airline's 40th anniversary of flying non-stop from Hong Kong to Sydney.
"Obviously if you can get a better hard product than anybody else, that's a good thing."
"But particularly in business class arena, once the seat is flat and it's got space and movies, there's a limited amount of extra things you can do on top of that. So the differentiator becomes the service, and how the staff interact with the passengers."
In Cathay Pacific the service standard is carefully calibrated to suit each cabin, Barrington reveals.
"In the first class cabin we have people who are what I call 'Chairman-esque'" Barrington says.
"They like to be left alone to read a book or sleep. Sometimes they'll call the cabin attendant but but mostly they want to be left alone."
"In business class we generally have a lot of ‘road warriors' working in flight, using their laptop, who want very attentive service and being served all the time."
"In the economy cabin we try speed up the meal service so we can give people a good meal and then clear it away fast enough so they can enjoy the inflight entertainment, which is a great way to get through a 14 hour flight."
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